Seasoned long-distance hiker and HIGHLANDER ambassador, Peter Watson shares his complete gear list – everything you’ll need for your HIGHLANDER Adventure.
I am happiest when on the trail. Hiking, for me, is the remedy to most of life’s problems insofar as they simply cannot be addressed from the trail. The unanswered emails, pending bills and rolling news headlines all just have to wait when on the trail. For me, the rhythmic crunch of rocks underfoot, the smell of mountain air on the breeze and the contours of the footpath ahead are far more enthralling. When it comes to headspace, route-finding, tent-pitching and cooking dinner all take precedence.
Over the years, I’ve spent an inordinate number of nights under canvas and even more of my days traipsing along panoramic mountain paths or shaded forest tracks. Along the way, I’ve been fortunate enough to complete some of the most spectacular treks in the world including the Everest and K2 base camps in Nepal and Pakistan respectively, the Arctic Circle Trail in Greenland and Aconcagua in Argentina, South America’s highest peak. During the pandemic, when I couldn't travel, I got so bored at home that I walked across England… twice!
Whenever I get back from a trek, I usually receive a wide range of questions about the trip on Instagram and via the blog. Two questions always come up: “Any tips?” and “What should I pack?” The answer to the first question is easy. “Go light!”
Any trek will be more enjoyable if your backpack is manageable. Everything I pack is geared towards saving weight. Whenever I buy a new piece of kit, I compare it to several other items and always opt for the lightest one without compromising on quality. I encourage all other trekkers to do the same. The chances are that if you’re unsure whether to take something, then you don’t need it.
For a five-day trek like a HIGHLANDER Adventure, where you’ll be carrying two days’ worth of food at the most, hikers should be aiming for a backpack weighing around 10kg (22lb) including water. I often have to carry some photography gear which means my pack can creep up to around 12-13kg (26-28lb), but for most people, a backpack weighing between 10-12kg is perfectly achievable.
To answer the second question and to help future HIGHLANDER Adventurers get the balance right, I’ve put together a gear list of everything I pack on a multi-day trek.
The 10 essentials
First conceived in the 1930s by American outdoor community The Mountaineers, the “classic” 10 essentials were updated in 2003 to keep up with modern equipment. They now take a “systems” approach (i.e. map and compass became the navigation “system”). The below should always be packed whenever you step into the wilderness.
- Navigation (map and compass)
- Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
- Insulation (extra clothing)
- Illumination (headtorch/flashlight)
- First-aid kit
- Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles)
- Repair kit and tools
- Nutrition (extra food)
- Hydration (extra water)
- Emergency shelter
- Tent or shelter (I use a lightweight tent that pitches with my trekking poles)
- Sleeping pad (I use an inflatable Therm-a-Rest)
- Sleeping bag (three-season or a minimum comfort level of -2°C)
- Inflatable pillow (also Therm-a-Rest)
- Repair kit (should come with the tent)
- 30-45lt backpack (the smaller it is, the more it encourages you to pack light!)
- Trekking poles
- Water system (carry 1.5-2lt of water)
- Maps (supplied)
- Navigation system (smartphone or GPS)
- First-aid kit
- Sunscreen (SPF 40+)
- Mosquito repellent
- Washbag (biodegradable toiletries only)
- Toilet tissue (in a bag)
- Hiking shoes or boots (worn-in beforehand)
- Flip-flops or sandals for wearing around camp
- Sports or liner socks x 2
- Thicker hiking socks x 2
- Zip-off hiking trousers x 2
- Base or mid-layer top x 2
- Light down jacket or fleece
- Waterproof jacket or shell
- Waterproof trousers
- Cap or sunhat
- Neck buff
- Warm hat or beanie
- Light or midweight gloves
- Stove and fuel
- Bowl (optional as I just eat out of my saucepan)
- Cutlery (or camping spork)
- Snacks (optional as food is supplied)
- Head torch
- Power bank
- USB or power cables
Peter Watson is a HIGHLANDER ambassador, travel writer and founder of outdoor travel blog Atlas & Boots. A keen trekker and climber he’s visited over 80 countries and all seven continents. He is currently attempting to climb the seven summits – the highest mountain on every continent. Four down, three to go!